She had been awake since three and packed all her stuff by four. She’d spent the remaining three hours lying in bed, staring at the ceiling while he was still asleep. Numb, counting his breaths every minute like she used to do with her dog. Her thoughts dwelled in the past until the future rolled in sand said it was time.
God and everything she had lived for was gone. A middle-aged person’s mind often grows old too fast and withers on a cold autumn day. Autumn is the end of a story. However, the last chapter still seemed uncertain. She looked at herself in the mirror and gently took off her ring, her earrings and bracelet.
The wardrobe was open, showing her favourite dress that he had bought for her birthday. It used to emphasize her attractive waist and hips. She shoved them aside and grabbed for her black hoodie in the back and some blue jeans that she hadn’t worn in a while. After cleaning her teeth, she packed away her toothbrush and lip balm.
Before she left, she looked at him one more time.
She counted her change on the bus. It drove past the local church where she got married and the supermarket where she regularly bought her work lunch because she hated preparing food. She hated anything that required too much time. All that didn’t mean anything anymore. Time wasn’t just relative; it was over. She dug her hand into her backpack and found a copy of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, which she had never finished reading; she put it underneath the seat. There was a small bottle of eau de toilette, which she chucked into the bin beside her. A middle-aged lady looked inside the bin and then at her. It was on the tip of her tongue to tell the lady to take it. It smelled vinegary anyway.
When she arrived at the Greyhound station, she noticed that her mobile phone was vibrating at the bottom of her backpack. Feeling angry, she dropped her bag on the floor and stomped on it. That sudden outbreak had caught a few people’s attention. She grabbed her bag, walked towards the platforms, and threw a glance at the departure screen, uncertain of where to go. For some reason, the small town Tonopah stood out; plus, only a few people were getting on that bus, and Sacramento was full.
She bought herself a ticket, leaving her only fifty-five cents to donate to a bum.
The first stop was at Rhyolite, an abandoned ghost town with ruins.
What interested her was Tonopah’s test range–a military installation where people launched rockets and conducted free-fall experiments. Or maybe a donkey would lead her to some gold mine. In the back of the bus, she continued emptying her bag. There was a nail file, photographs from the past. Next, she broke her ID card in half and stuffed everything under her seat.
She felt a lump in her throat but swallowed once and then again.
Looking out of the window, she saw the desert–the only thing she ever knew. The window reflected her tired face, dry lips and wrinkles around her mouth.
The bus arrived at Tonopah station in the late afternoon. The town had no other public transportation. So she hitchhiked in the Great Basin Desert, passing Highway 95. The view of the dry plants and salty-looking valley soils made her think of thirst and carcasses. The sound of an explosion caught her off guard, but the driver showed no surprise. Then, she saw a bright flicker in the sky that looked like the sun’s reflection on a satellite. Or was it a star? She asked the driver to drop her off, but he called her crazy because it was getting dark, and they were in the middle of nowhere. He offered to drop her off at a gas station five miles ahead, but she insisted on getting off.
Mesmerized, she wandered off into the desert, following a glimmer of light. She walked and walked until she tripped over a prickly plant and fell on her face. She laughed at her own clumsiness and bleeding cheek. Blood was seeping through her jeans, but she couldn’t stop laughing. To catch some breath, she rolled over on her back and continued watching the sky. Her laughter died down to a delirious chuckle.
She saw a beautiful firefly that was growing bigger.
by P-chan (c) 2007